What Materials Can You Compost?
What Materials Can You Compost?
You canvirtually anything that is animal or vegetable matter: if it lived once, it will recycle into nutrients for micro-organisms and plants. You don’t need to worry too much about including all the plant nutrients in your compost pile. If you incorporate a good variety of materials, the necessary nutrients will be there.
From the kitchen you can compost all food scraps apart from meat and fat. The smaller the pieces, the quicker they decompose, and you’ll need to chop tough corn cobs, very woody vegetable scraps and old whole citrus fruits. Tea leaves and coffee grounds are excellent, as are eggshells and crushed seafood shells. If you cover or bury all cooked food scraps you won’t run much risk of vermin visiting your heap. If this is a concern, don’t compost cooked material.
Old flowers can be added, along with their water which can contain useful bacteria and moisten the heap. Old aquarium water is also a good addition to moisten the heap as it contains algae and other nutrients that can be recycled. Paper towels and napkins go into compost, along with cardboard tubes — tear them up a bit first. Newspapers will also compost but they should be shredded and soaked then mixed in well — don’t leave them in a layer or they will compact, go slimy, and stop aerobic bacteria working.
Empty your dustpan and vacuum cleaner onto your compost heap. House dust is largely mites, hair and earth, all of which add to the nutrition in your heap. You can also add woodash, but fairly sparingly as it can make a compost heap too alkaline. Any natural fibre products can be composted, chopping large items up small. Feathers from pillows and mattresses, woollen and cotton clothing and even leather items will all compost successfully and add nutrition to your heap.
Most animal wastes can go into compost — poultry manure, rabbit or guinea pig bedding as well as muck from larger animals. But don’t add dog or cat excrement unless you become an expert composter as these can carry diseases that will only be killed in an efficient hot heap. Human urine is a superb addition.
Just about any waste material from the garden should head for your compost. Weeds, soft prunings, mowings, leaves, even obnoxious perennialsuch as couch grass and ground elder if they are dried first, and most weed seeds will be killed by . Chop or shred woody prunings. You can compost diseased stems and leaves as the organisms should be killed by proper corn-posting, but if in doubt burn them, along with thorny and evergreen prunings, and compost the woodash.
Additional content for your compost
If you are a keen gardener you probably won’t be able to produce enough material from your home surroundings, but you may be able to get more from neighbours — people are usually happy to pass on their grass mowings and sometimes other material as well — or buy compost from your local council.
A traditional rule of thumb is to make compost from three parts vegetable matter to one part animal. Animal waste keeps available nitrogen high in your heap, but if you have lots of grass mowings and leguminous waste you need less muck. Unless you keep poultry and several pets you will probably bring in extra manure. Strawy poultry muck is the best rich addition to compost, followed by cow, horse, pig and sheep. Never add wet muck as it delays decomposition. Always try and find manure mixed with straw because much of the benefit of muck comes from the urine content, but don’t use sawdust litter as this takes ages to break down into useful nutrients because of the high carbon/nitrogen ratio.